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com/ HISTORY The English word "card" stems from the Greek term for paper, but actually, card games go back over 2,000 years, centuries before paper was invented. Historians have been unable to pinpoint their precise origins, but they have uncovered records of card playing in ancient China, India, and Egypt. Like dice, the Crusaders brought cards back to Europe in the fourteenth century, and although the church was soon preaching that they were the invention of the devil himself, Johann Gutenberg printed playing cards in 1440, the same year he printed his famous Bible. Consisting of 78 cards, the pack was called Tarots, from which the modern deck evolved, with the four suits representing the four classes of feudal society. Swords, in Spanish espadas, from which we get spades, symbolized the nobility. Merchants were represented by coins, fre-quently square in shape, which, when turned on end, became today's diamonds. The sign for the serfs was literally a club, and then called a baton, and today the cloverleafshaped sign is still called a club. The emblem for the church was the grail, or chalice, and from its characteristic shape developed our hearts. Gutenberg's Tarot deck consisted of 22 "atouts," or trumps—including a joker—and four suits of 14 cards, each with ten numbered cards plus a king, a queen, a knight, and a valet or jester. Before 1500, the 22 "atouts" and the valet were dropped, although today in some games the five top-ranked cards are still called trumps, and in other games the joker (jester) is still used. Originally, the face cards were portrayals of actual personages, and slight traces of them remain to this day. Charlemagne was the model for the king of hearts; the king of spades portrayed the Hebrew King David; the king of diamonds represented Julius Caesar; and Alexander the Great was the prototype for the king of clubs. On the feminine side were Helen of Troy as the queen of hearts, Palas Athena as the queen of spades, and the biblical Rachel as the queen of diamonds. Also honored from time to time were Joan of Arc and Elizabeth I, as well as a number of others. The knights, or jacks as they came to be called, were all patterned after famous soldiers, such as Sir Lancelot for clubs; Charlemagne's nephew Roland for diamonds; Hogier Le Danois, another Charlemagne lieutenant, for spades; and Etienne de Vignoles, who fought for Charles VII of France, for hearts. By 1492 the modern deck of cards as we know it had been established and was introduced to America by Christopher Columbus and his sailors. At about the same time, the forerunner of our present day baccarat made its first appearance. I am indebted to Richard A. Epstein and his classic work, The Theory of Gambling and Statistical Logic, from which the following is excerpted: Introduced into France from Italy during the reign of Charles VIII (ca. 1490), the game was apparently devised by a gambler named Felix Falguiere who based it on the old Etruscan ritualism of the "Nine Gods." According to legend, twenty-six centuries ago in "The Temple of Golden Hair" in Etruscan Rome, the "Nine Gods" prayed standing on their toes to a golden-tressed virgin who cast a novem dare (nine-sided die) at their feet. If her throw was 8 or 9, she was crowned a priestess. If she threw a 6 or 7, she was disqualified from further religious office and her vestal status was summarily transmuted. And if her cast was 5 or under, she walked gracefully into the sea. Baccarat was designed with a similar partition (albeit with less dramatic payoffs) of the numbers, modulo 10. Unfortunately, today it's the casino patrons who are usually destined to face a fate similar to that suffered by the would-be priestess when she cast a 6 or 7. European baccarat (pronounced ba-ka-ra with soft a's and a silent t), baccarat en banque, and chemin de fer, are all descendants of this original Italian game of baccara, meaning zero and referring to the value of all 10-count cards. They soon became the exclusive games of the French nobility, not making their way to the public casinos for many years. In European baccarat, in addition to the player's standing or drawing on 5 as he pleases, the play of the dealer, who operates the permanent bank for the casino, is completely optional. In spite of these options, the decisions of the banker in almost all cases is exactly the same as required by the rules of play for American baccarat. Perfect employment of these options would not increase the fixed percentage in favor of the casino by .5%. In this game, players who choose to bet with the bank to win are charged 5% of their winnings on each bet. The game of baccarat en banque is very similar, with the exception that one bank hand and two player hands are dealt. Frequently the casino leases the bank as a concession to a syndicate who shares 50% of their monthly winnings with the casino, but in the event of a loss, the syndicate absorbs it all. In this version of the game, the player can bet on either or both of the player hands but never on the bank hand. The banker, a casino employee, can stand or draw as he chooses. Normally he will play according to the fixed American baccarat rules, but he can modify this procedure to enhance his chances of beating the player hand with the greatest amount of money bet on it. The basic difference in the game of chemin de fer (which is French for railroad, and refers to the shoe moving around the table like a train) is that the bank rotates among the players and the house acts as a broker, collecting a fee from the winnings of each banker, therefore assuming no risk whatsoever. The player who is acting as banker cannot draw down any part of his original bank or subsequent winnings unless either the players do not subscribe to all the bank or, after the completion of any hand, the banker chooses to pass the bank. In this game, the player also has the choice of standing or drawing on 5, and the banker's play is completely optional. In any of these three games, the experienced American player who observed the European game long enough to become familiar with the variations in procedure would be able to play a professional game just by using the American baccarat rules.
Today's Game Both European baccarat and chemin de fer have been offered in the United States from time to time, but the game played today combines the best features of each. All players can bet on either the banker or player hand, and although the shoe rotates among the players, who take turns playing the banker hand, all wagers are covered by the casino, and the bank, subject only to a maximum-bet size, is relatively unlimited. This version of the game, originating in South America and played in England and other parts of the world under the name of punto banco, was introduced into the United States in the late I950's by Tommy Renzoni after the Gastro government closed all the casinos in Cuba. PLAYERS Aimed primarily at high rollers, baccarat is a glamorous game with an old-world air of graciousness, and the patrons are usually the well-dressed, wealthy, older gamblers. You play baccarat with special chips and higher stakes in a small, luxuriously appointed, roped-off area and is dealt by tuxedoed croupiers in an atmosphere that is subdued and exclusive. Lady Luck is the predominant factor; whether you win or lose a bundle often depends on the turn of a single card, and the play is dictated by chance, not by choice. In most casinos, minimum bets are either $5 or $20, although at certain times the minimum can be as high as $100. Maximum bets range from $1,000 to $2,000, but as usual, the larger casinos frequently raise the limit for well-heeled high rollers. Due to the common $20 minimum bet, baccarat tables furnish yellow $20 chips, which can be found nowhere else in the casino. $500 chips are available for larger wagers. Because of the relatively high level of betting, baccarat is not a very popular game, and most casinos offer just a few tables. If you are not concerned about the elevated level of betting, don't be frightened by the fast pace of the game—about two hands a minute. Baccarat is the easiest of all the casino table games to learn, and no skill is required. Actually, you don't need to know the rules to play baccarat, even if you are given the shoe to deal. The croupiers will show you where to bet; when, where, and how to deal; and they will announce the winning hand. Everything is automatic. As the cards are dealt, neither the banker, nor the croupiers, nor the players have any choice about standing or drawing cards. The fixed rules of the game always dictate the play. There are no options, and no decisions to make other than the size of your wager and whether you choose to bet on the banker or the player hand. The game could not be made any simpler when you play baccarat. CASINO CREW Standing at the center of the layout are two croupiers, each responsible for selling chips and collecting the losing and paying off the winning wagers of their half of the table. Printed on the layout, directly in front of them, are fourteen small boxes numbered to correspond with the player betting spots, and used to keep track of any commissions owed by the players. Opposite these dealers sits another croupier, the caller, who directs the game, telling the player with the shoe when to deal and to whom, and subsequently announcing the winning hand. The caller also removes the first card in the shoe after the shuffle and turns it faceup. The point value of this card, with face cards counting as ten for this purpose, determines how many cards are to be burned, and the caller then places them in the discard slot in the table, just in front of him. Cards from completed hands are also collected by the caller and deposited in this slot. This continues until the cut card appears in front of the shoe, signaling a new shuffle after the completion of that hand. Baccarat Systems Looking for baccarat systems that can't fail; a system that will help you to walk away a winner every time? So am I; let know if you find one. On second thought, don't bother; because if you've found baccarat systems that claims to do that, you haven't found anything at all. Perhaps it's the simple game-play or elegant math that dictates the rules of baccarat that let so many young men and women fall prey to the notion that a sharper mathematical mind can hold the upper hand. Maybe it's the high stakes associated with the game that fools people into thinking there is more money to be won in the baccarat pit. However, it is unlikely the cash the high rollers are pushing will winding up in front of us; this isn't poker. The most common approach to baccarat systems is based on a martingale system model. A martingale style system is one that has you double your bet after a losing (or with some variations after a winning) hand. Picture it like this: a 5-dollar bet is lost so the next bet made is 10 dollars. If it too is lost the third bet made is for 20. If the third bet is won you win 20 and retain your bet, so have a total of 40 dollars in front of you. In this way you have essentially recouped your losses on the original 5-dollar bet and the 10-dollar bet. You've also made a five-dollar profit. This system is completely infallible except for the table maximum issue. If we are on this five-dollar table, and lost the 20-dollar bet and keep losing, your bet amount quickly rises to $40, $80, $160, $320, $640. On a $5 the table maximum is usually $500, so if you happen to lose 6 hands in a row you're completely out of luck. Even if you happen to win the $320 bet, you've wagered $635 and won $640, for a nice tidy profit of $5. I honestly can't see myself putting down $320 US for a slightly less than 50% chance of winning $5. Martingale is a horrible system that should never be used under any circumstances.
RULES FOR PLAYER'S HAND If the baccarat rules require the player to stand on his initial two cards, the caller announces, "Player stands with [point total]." But if the player must draw, the croupier calls, "Card for the player." Only then does the banker deal a card faceup to the croupier, who places it next to the first two cards as he announces the new total. The decisions for the player hand are easy to learn. If the initial cards total 5 or less, draw one and only one card; otherwise stand. When the player hand is completed, the procedure for completing the banker hand is the same, but the baccarat rules for drawing or standing are a little more complicated. RULES FOR BANKER'S HAND Except for initial cards totaling 2 or less, which always require a draw, the decisions for the banker hand vary depending on the player's third card. Again, only one card may be drawn, and it's always taken if the banker's hand totals: • • • • 3 and the player stands or draws 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, or 10. 4 and the player stands or draws 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7. 5 and the player stands or draws 4, 5, 6, or 7. 6 and the player draws 6 or 7. The dealer must stand if the player stands.
Notice that the baccarat rules can require the banker to draw even when his first two cards beat the player's final hand, and a third card can cause the banker's hand to lose. When both hands are concluded, the caller declares the winner, announcing the point total for each. Because the inherent odds of the game favor the banker over the player, the casinos assess a 5% commission on all winning bets on the banker so that the house advantage on either hand is about the same, 1.06% on the banker vs. 1.23% on the player. The casino pays even money on all bets, which amounts to an overpayment on winning banker bets, but you don't have to worry about keeping track of the commissions on these bets; the dealers do this for you with tokens that are placed in your numbered commission box in front of them, each time you bet and win on the banker's hand. The accumulated commissions are collected by the dealers while the cards are being shuffled for the next round, and they must be paid before you leave the table if you quit during a shoe. Always be aware of your commission indebtedness, and never bet your last chips before settling up. Casino Advantage at Baccarat Bankers Hand Player Hand Tie
1.06 % 1.23 % 14.05 %
MATHEMATICS OF BACCARAT The mathematics of baccarat strategies are also relatively easy to understand. First, we must remember that $100 bet on the player hand will yield $100 when it wins, but the same bet on a winning banker hand yields only $95 because of the 5% commission. Now, let's consider the effect of the fixed drawing and standing rules. Using a formula from Allan N. Wilson's The Casino Gambler's Guide, we find that in the long run the hands will break down like this: Banker hand wins 45.84% of all hands 50.68% disregarding ties Player hand wins 44.61% of all hands 49.32% disregarding ties Neither hand wins (a tie) 9.55% of all hands_______ 100. % 100. % 44.61% of the time, bet on the banker hand will lose $100 or $44.61 45.84% of the time, $100 bet on the banker hand will win $95 or $43.55 9.55% of the time, bet on the banker hand will tie. -----Casino advantage, banker hand: 1.06 % 45.84% of the time, $100 bet on the player hand will lose $100 or $45.84 44.61% of the time, $100 bet on the player hand will win $100 or $44.61 9.55% of the time, $100 bet on the player hand will tie ---------Casino advantage, player hand: 1.23 % There is only one other bet available on the Baccarat Strategies layout, a wager that both hands will tie, paying 8 to 1. Knowing that this will occur 9.55% of the time, let's see how good a proposition this is: 90.45% of the time, bet on a tie will lose $100 or $90.45 9.55 of the time, $100 bet on a tie will win $800 or $76.40
Casino advantage, tie-hand bet: 14.05 % From this we can see that if we would like to lose our money ten times as fast in baccarat, the best way to accomplish our goal would be to continually wager on a tie. At one time, Las Vegas baccarat layouts provided for betting on a natural 8 or 9, paying 9 to 1, and yielding the casino about 5%. However, Edward O. Thorp, who published the first card-counting system for blackjack, developed a baccarat card-counting strategy, enabling a player to determine when the chance of a natural's being dealt from the remaining decks increased. Based on the fact that a surplus of 8's, 9's, and 10-count cards would produce more naturals, the system was described in Life magazine in 1964, and shortly after, all casinos eliminated this option. Since then, no one has been able to devise a card-counting strategy that would significantly alter the house edge in baccarat. If you would like to play a relaxed yet exciting, sophisticated casino game without bothering to learn complicated rules or strategies, baccarat may be the game for you. There are really only two places to bet; the croupiers dictate the play of the cards, and your only major decision is how much to wager. Unless you are foolish enough to bet on a tie, there are no mistakes that can be made: more than any other casino table game, Baccarat Strategies depends simply on pure luck. Just remember the words of John Milton Hay, Teddy Roosevelt's Secretary of State: "True luck consists not in holding the best cards at the table. Luckiest is he who knows just when to rise and go home." THE STREAK Mr. K. is a high roller. There is no doubt about it. I got to know him when he called me about participating in my Blackjack Clinic. He told me that he had dropped $25,000 playing baccarat and he wanted to find a way to win it back. I told him that I could teach him how to win at blackjack, but that I couldn't guarantee how much he'd win. Mr. K. took the Blackjack Clinic and became an excellent card counter and a disciplined blackjack player. Or so I thought. It turns out that he did win back his $25,000, although it wasn't just because of the 1.5% long-run advantage that I taught him how to achieve at blackjack. He had a series of very lucky sessions where all the cards were going his way. I told Mr. K. not to count on the same heavy winnings in every session and, sure enough, his luck turned; he dropped about $10,000. At that point he regressed to baccarat. He got lucky again and won back his $10,000 and then began alternating his play between blackjack and baccarat. Although he still plays an excellent game of blackjack, Mr. K. is a gambler—he possesses the gambler's urgency to play for high stakes. He seeks, as all true gamblers do, an "adrenaline high." Recently Mr. K. invited me down to observe his play at the baccarat strategies tables. Agreeing to meet in front of the baccarat pit prior to starting play, I arrived at the appointed time, only to find Mr. K. already in the game, looking very distressed. He had arrived two days earlier and was down about $10,000. Mr. K. expressed the usual gambler's lament about not quitting when he was ahead; at one point he had been up $5,000. I sat down to play alongside Mr. K. Down to his last $500, he had used up his $4,000 credit line, so there was nothing he could do if he dropped that last $500. I watched it dwindle down to $50 and then talked him into having lunch. During lunch I attempted to talk Mr. K. into going home, licking his wounds, and returning another day to play blackjack, where he could enjoy a 1.5% positive advantage instead of the negative one-plus percent at baccarat, but to no avail. In fact, he talked me into cashing a check for him for $1,000. I agreed on the condition that we would play blackjack. O.K. But we couldn't find a seat! Not even at a $25 table. Mr. K. suggested baccarat. I reluctantly acquiesced. One table was full and one table was empty. Mr. K. chose the empty table with the exclamation, "Let it [the recoup or the wipeout] happen fast!" Now, Mr. K. is a streak bettor, looking for a long series of wins in a row on either the bank or the players. He bets whatever has come up last until it loses: For example, if the bank wins, he keeps betting the bank until the play-ers win. Then he jumps to the players until the bank wins, etc. Well, it was Mr. K's lucky day, because we caught a shoe with a lot of streaks, starting with 16 straight wins for the players. Mr. K's betting progressed from $40 to $500. As I was willing to risk only $100, my betting progressed from $20 to $200 in a conservative progression as follows: 20-20-40-40-60-60-80-100-120-140-160-180-200. This is one of the most amazing streaks I have ever seen in my twenty-two years of playing casino games. The odds of getting a group of sixteen wins in a row are about 65,000 to one. During the streak, there were certain things prescribed by Mr. K. to keep it going: the player's cards were turned over by the same person each time; the banker's cards were always tapped against Mr. K.'s chips; the only conversation allowed was in conjunction with the bet size; and counting chips won was prohibited. But this streak was not the last good thing to come out of this fantastic shoe; three or four other streaks of five or six wins occurred, and at the end of the shoe, Mr. K. had recouped his $10,000 and had won another $1,000 to boot. I had multiplied my $100 by sixteen. Our play had begun at 3:00 P.M., and at 4:03 P.M. we were cashing in at the cashier's cage. There is no moral to this story, but I will give you some advice on baccarat. If you're feeling lucky, set aside part of your casino bankroll for a fling at the baccarat tables— maybe you'll catch a streak.
BACCARAT TABLE AND LAYOUT Kidney-shaped to allow room for the dealers to reach out and handle both the bets and the cards, the baccarat table itself is about twelve feet long and three to four feet wide. The green baize covering is stenciled with a baccarat layout providing numbered boxes in front of each chair for players to wager on either the banker or player hand. The places are numbered from one to fifteen, with thirteen omitted, as few gamblers would be willing to sit and play at that traditionally unlucky spot. The modern version of the ancient game of baccarat is played with six or eight decks, shuffled by the caller, cut by a player, and placed in a dealing box called a shoe, after the insertion of a cut card near the end of the combined decks to indicate the last hand. The shoe is then passed to a player at seat number one, who becomes the banker, although he may bet either hand. The shoe moves counterclockwise around the table each time the bank hand loses. Any player who becomes the banker may elect to pass the bank, then or at the completion of any hand, but to be eligible to deal, the banker must have at least a minimum bet on the table in either position. After all wagers are placed, the banker alternately deals out four cards, facedown, first to the caller, who slides the cards to a player (traditionally the largest bettor for that hand), and second to himself, sliding these banker's cards under a corner of the shoe. The player then turns over his two cards and tosses them to the caller, who announces the total. Following this, the banker uncovers the two cards that were tucked under the corner of the shoe, and the croupier calls out their value. The four suits have no meaning. At this point, a decision for the hand may have been reached with just these four cards. Tens and face cards count zero; all other cards count their point value; and if the hand totals more than 9, the left digit is disregarded; thus, unlike blackjack, no hand can bust. Totals of 8 or 9, called "naturals," are automatic winners, although of course a natural 9 beats a natural 8. If the player hand adds up to 6, 7, 8, or 9, or if the banker hand totals 7, 8, or 9, no additional cards are dealt and the hand that comes closest to a total of 9 wins and all bets are settled. Ties are a push; no money is exchanged and players are free to change their bets as they choose. Frequently the totals of the two hands require a third card to be dealt to the player, the banker, or both. Neither one has a choice in the matter; the rules are fixed. Optimal strategy has been developed for every possible combination of cards, and since as many as fifteen players are wagering on just two hands, to avoid arguments over poor play, standing and drawing decisions are mandatory. Remember, though, neither player nor banker ever draws against a natural 8 or 9.
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